- Posted by Robert Garbutt
- comments (38)
Regular visitors to this column may have noticed that the editor has been away on his holidays. To Brittany to be exact where the sun seems to shine a little bit more than in the UK and everybody but everybody rides a bike.
And here's the bit you might not already know - absolutely nobody wears a helmet.
That last bit isn't entirely true because I did encounter a few Brits and a group of Americans who had their lids on, but when it came to the locals there wasn't a scrap of polystyrene in sight.
Being used to London roads it's the complete opposite. Everyone wears protection these days, so much so that my French encounter was like step back in time.
There's no obvious reason for the difference in attitude. Brittany has a considerable number of bike lanes but in holiday season the roads, especially in the towns, are every bit as crowded as in Britain. And they start them young. It made me nervous watching pre-school kids wobbling along the bike lanes with their parents.
Are the French simply reckless or is it that we've become risk obsessed this side of the channel?
Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly
- Posted by Robert Garbutt
- comments (15)
Consistency brings success in bike races but it doesn't win the hearts of fans. Give the yellow and green jerseys to whoever you like but the real heroes of this year's Tour were definitely Andy Schleck and Mark Cavendish.
Contador says bike racing is not like maths, but he was still a calculating winner. Calculating winners aren't exciting winners. He attacked less than half a dozen times in the entire race. He countered, he followed, but rarely did he initiate. And consequently he didn't win a single stage, which is a 20-year first, assuming you ignore Oscar Pereiro's belated promotion to top spot in 2006.
It's no better with the green jersey. Cavendish takes five stages, three more than Petacchi, but it's still not enough. Everybody knows who the best sprinter was this year. After a couple of dodgy stages in the first week Cav went from strength to strength taking the stages into Bordeaux and Paris with almost embarrassing ease.
There's never a dull moment with Schleck and Cav. Andy throws his chain off, gives a good impression of an inept descender and then surprises us all with that fantastic final time trial. Mark falls off, cries (loads), has his lead-out man headbutt the opposition and then singlehandedly makes Britain the second most winningest nation in this year's Tour.
Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly
- Posted by Ian Parr and Jon Derricott
- comments (0)
On July 4 2010, Cycling Weekly's biggest band of riders to date took on the Maratona dles Dolomites gran fondo in Italy. Our group formed part of the 9,000 lucky starters from 60 nationalities chosen from over 25,000 applications this year.
A total of 270 of us braved the passes on the hottest day of the year to experience the almost overwhelming sense of achievement this event inspires. The organisation has always been first class but somehow manages to get better each time. There is an enormous number of volunteers there to help at every stage - from getting you into your start pen, through warning of hazards and offering mechanical support to feeding you generously on the way round.
Texts are sent immediately providing you with your split times as your timing chip activates sensors at various points on the course. Add to all of that an incredible photo and video service that allows you to view your exploits as soon as the following day, then the assessment of the Maratona as being the best sportive around is an accurate one.
Many of Team CW deserve special mention but space doesn't allow all, so here are just a few:
16 year old Josh Guy, a young star at Gwent Dragons Rugby Club, took on the long course and was the youngest finisher; 18 year old David McGinnerty, now a veteran of the event - this being his third Maratona, who beat the writers of this piece by an embarrassing amount; cabaret artist Arthur Winstanley of Liverpool Phoenix CC who sang ‘Catch Me If You Can' as he passed Mario Cipollini on the first climb and 64 year old Peter Sutton who hasn't ridden a road bike since he was at school. He just does a bit of mountain biking, was entered by his son Paul as a surprise and then raised £2,000 for an orphanage in Botswana where his other son works!
It was fantastic to see Cipo. He's typical of the ex-stars we've seen on the Maratona. He had loads of time for riders who just wanted to say hello to him. We too passed him on the first climb. It was a big deal riding behind a world champion - a guy who's still in great shape. Though we had overtaken him this now topless, helmet-less superstar sailed past us on the mighty Giau. All he had on were his shades, shorts and shoes. It was a sight to behold and made even better by the two women in front of us who nearly fell off gawping at him. Not known for his shyness isn't our Mario!
This is one of the wonderful features of the Maratona. In the 10 years we've been riding it we've ridden alongside Bugno, Moser, Fondriest and ex-footballer Fabrizio Ravanelli - not bad company to go for a spin with eh?
It's quite simply an incredible ride. Don't take our word for it though. Here are some of the comments from CW riders:
Many many thanks for the Maratona experience! I have ridden sportives and done the Etape a few times but nothing comes close to the sheer majesty of the Dolomites. A firm fixture in the calendar for me and the group which I hope will be bigger next year. To the extent you can even think about the next one, please consider me a definite entry.
Very best wishes
It was amazing but Giau was tough beyond belief!
I was delighted with my time, thought the whole event brilliant, organisation superb, weather stunning and scenery breath taking, we'll definitely be back!
Thanks again to CW for organising.
Thank you for organising and definitely put me on the list for next year! It was a truly fantastic ride.
Thanks for organising this. It was the best ride I've ever done.
An amazing ride that I doubt will ever be beaten
It was best day on a bike that I have ever had - the whole experience was absolutely terrific.
I was amazed to meet another rider from my town on one of the climbs - what a coincidence!
I am just coming down from an enormous high - please sign me up for next year!
Just to say a big thank you to you and CW for making this possible - this was by far the best event I have ever taken part in and an experience that I will never forget (especially the Giau!!), being in the Dolomites for a few days beforehand and the race on Sunday were truly some of the best days of my life..... Chris Armishaw
Just wanted to thank you for all this - a wonderful experience and apart from an attack of the bonk 2km from the top of the Falzarego I got round OK.
Beautiful area and all those riding with me agreed that it had a far better vibe than the Etape du Tour or the Marmotte.
Thanks very much for organising the trip. I have done the Etape 3 times but the Maratona surpassed the Etape on all counts. I loved every minute of our trip. The location is stunning. I had seen the DVD produced by Cannondale but it was even more beautiful. My wife and sister joined me and were asking about coming again next year as they told me I WOULD be doing it again.
Look out for Penny Comin's piece in Cycling Weekly magazine in September. If you'd like to become part of the CW team at the Maratona send an email to email@example.com.
Official website: www.matatona.it
Peter and Paul Sutton
You can't get enough of this scenery
- Posted by Hugh Gladstone
- comments (0)
As anyone following the Tour in person will tell you, there's no better way of watching the actual racing that sat at home in front of the TV!
"I'm back off home to the Netherlands," a Dutch spectator told us yesterday evening. "I've been following the race since Rotterdam. Now I want to see what's going on in it!"
But, as fleeting as the action is, there is a lot to be said for being here in the flesh. If you get the chance, take it up.
For starters, there's all that atmosphere, the kitsch fun of the publicity caravan and the crescendo-ing anticipation of the race's arrival.
If you're wise, you'll have brought a picnic, a bottle of wine and made a whole day of waiting for the Tour.
Then there's the French countryside - particularly fantastic where the race has been the week. Heading from the finish to our hotel yesterday, we passed through some fantastic gorges and stopped for dinner at an outdoor bar in a rustic hill-top town with views stretching back towards the high Alps.
Don't even let us get started on the food to be eaten around France.
As for the racing, you may not get the overview that Phil and Paul et al offer, but by watching at the roadside, there are little exclusive snippets you'll catch all for yourself.
On Tuesday, we parked the Cycling Weekly car in a village between the Col de la Columbiere and the Col des Aravis and grabbed a coke from a local bar. As the race came through, we spied yellow jersey Cadel Evans chatting with BMC team mate George Hincapie.
Was Hincapie reminiscing to Evans about defending the yellow garment in Armstrong's day? Perhaps Evans was telling the American how bad he was feeling. Three climbs later his jersey was a goner.
At yesterday's finish in Gap, I watched the two leaders come in at the 800m to go mark. It may not seem the most obvious place to catch the race - it's too far away to see the sprint unfold. Why not walk up to the finish line and see the stage concluded? Or locate myself on the last climb and maybe catch Nicolas Roche attacking?
Then again, why not watch it from the 800m mark? Sat behind Vasil Kiryienka, this was the exact point where Sergio Paulinho coolly lifted his hands off his bars, did up his zip and straightened his jersey. It was a little insight into how confident he was of taking the win. I know they showed that zip moment on TV too, but because I couldn't see the finish, it made it all the more telling. There was something a little bit exciting about later learning that he'd succeeded.
As the rest of the field came in behind, there were other fascinating little observations to be made. These glimpses may not sound like much when I write them down but nonetheless they leave tiny mental imprints from this fantastic sporting event.
Perhaps the one that sticks most in my mind from yesterday's stage was Fabian Cancellara freewheeling in, alone off the back, having spent the day working for Andy Schleck.
As he did so, Cancellara was trying to shake some of the lactic acid out of those almighty thighs of his.
For a moment I imagined that the ground was going to rumble beneath him.
I've never had that impression watching the race on TV.
- Posted by Simon Richardson
- comments (1)
My legs are covered in dust, I've got an irritated throat, my feet ache and I'm pretty exhausted. And I was just spectating on the cobbles.
The experiment of taking the Tour de France on to the rough roads of northern France worked brilliantly today after the race was treated to a thrilling spectacle that turned the classification on its head and will no doubt change the dynamics of the race all the way to Paris.
There were plenty of worried riders ahead of today's stage. Even Tom Boonen, a triple winner of Paris-Roubaix who pulled out of the Tour with tendonitis, said there was no place for these bone-shaking cobbles in the Tour de France. There were always going to be winners and losers today, but they weren't exactly who we expected.
It was an epic stage, just what was needed after the previous day's unwarranted go-slow.
We pitched up 400m from the end of the last stretch of cobbles, the Bernard Hinault section just 10 kilometres from the finish line. The atmosphere as the race came past was electric as the riders emerged through the thick clouds of dust that were spewed in to the air by the cars and motorbikes that rattled past.
Watching Cancellara thundering by, Andy Schleck doing the ride of his life to put time in to his rivals where no one expected him too, the world champion Cadel Evans in the thick of it, and Geraint Thomas showing the world the ability that his British Cycling and Team Sky coaches have known he has for a long time, made for a memorable moment.
Picking the rest of the riders out as they came through was a challenge. We'd been given some information over the phone, but with the field in countless small groups it was hard for anyone to know exactly what was going on.
We spotted Wiggins, brilliantly placed in the second big group, we missed Contador, but saw Vinokourov. Then we waited. Where was Armstrong? The seconds ticked by until a roar travelled down the crowd towards us. Suddenly there he was, riding down the gutter, squirming on top of his bike to keep it in a straight line and spinning too small a gear.
But he wasn't on a charge, he was struggling in the gutter and looked bad. And he was on his own going backwards. Years of dominating this race, and a solid third last year have made him look near invincible. Today he looked very ordinary. Maybe he's too old, or maybe he has other things on his mind.
As the race past us by over the next 20 minutes we heard the news that Thomas had placed second. Second on a Tour de France stage is good enough, but doing it on a stage that ripped the field to pieces is incredible. Not that 'G' doesn't have form here. The Welshman won junior Paris-Roubaix back in 2004 and was 64th in this year's senior event.
Long ago Dave Brailsford told me that Geraint was much better than even he realised, while on Sunday morning Rod Ellingworth, the man who brought Thomas through the BC academy system, said Thomas had been told there was to be no more talk of 'potential', and that now he had to start delivering.
Fifth in the prologue, second today, second on GC and leading the young rider competition is a pretty good delivery.
The race itself is now wide open. Andy Schleck is in a great position after putting time in to his rivals when no one expected him to, Contador has to attack, Wiggins and Evans are right back in the thick of things, and Armstrong looks like he's swimming against the tide.
A stage such as this, when the unexpected happens, is just what the Tour needed. After years of formulaic victories played out over predictable routes, the race has sprung to life on a day that the fans enjoyed as much as anyone. And we were right in the thick of it.